From your reading of Far from the Madding Crowd, what do you find of interest in Hardy’s presentation of women’s experiences in the 19th century?
We take for granted that women can choose whether or not to marry, and whether or not to have children, and how many. In the 19th Century woman did not have as many choices as men did in their lives. They usually had low paid jobs and less education. Woman did not have the choice of weather they could have sex or have children this was always the man’s decision. If the women had the man’s child the husband could have this child taken away and had it raised somewhere else, the woman had to input in this. The woman had fewer rights in marriage then men did and they could be abused on by their husbands. Once married, a woman’s property and income would be owned by her husband. Only in 1891 woman were allowed to divorce their husbands before this they had no choice unless it was very rare circumstances. The men were allowed to imprison the women. In Far from the Madding Crowd Hardy could be considered as a ‘proto-feminist’ because of what he says about women. There are two main female characters in Far from the Madding Crowd and these are Bathsheba Everdene and Fanny Robin. Fanny Robin is a poor, vulnerable and working class woman, she is living in a society which frowns upon sex outside of marriage. Bathsheba Everdene is very different from Fanny Robin because she is an independent woman who owns and runs a farm which she inherited from her uncle. She is very powerful.
Fanny Robin was the typical country girl in the nineteenth century. Towards the beginning of the book it shows that Fanny could be seen as vulnerable and weak. One passage in the book show that she is living in poverty and here it says she is a ‘slim’ girl and ‘thinly clad’ this would mean that she does not have enough money to spend on food and buy some more clothes. Also in this passage it says that she willingly accepts a shilling from Gabriel Oak and even though it is not a lot of money it shows how desperate she is. While Oak was passing this shilling to Fanny he touched her wrist and he realized how fragile she was, he thought that she could easily been taken advantage of. Oak felt a bit of romance with her. ‘It was beating with a tragic intensity’ and Oak immediately feels saddened.
In Chapter 8 Bathsheba suspects something has happened to Fanny when she is missing but she does hope that Fanny has ‘come to no harm through a man of that kind’. You could tell that she had left the house in a rush because she left without her bonnet. Bathsheba wonders she left in a rush to find a male figure. She may be in a hurry to find him because she knows she needs to marry him as soon as she can because it is frowned upon to be pregnant outside of marriage. If people were pregnant outside of marriage then they normally would have been classed as an outcast of society.
This is a preview of the whole essay
In Chapter 11 Fanny and Troy meet and Hardy describes Fanny as she’s coming into view as a ‘little shape’ this suggest that she is insignificant because she is a woman. After this you can tell that Troy shows a lack of commitment towards Fanny and this is shown where he says ‘the fact is I forgot to ask’ this also shows that he cannot keep his word, in this case his word was to marry Fanny and so she is not pregnant outside of marriage. Near the end of this chapter Hardy uses the phrase ‘an obligation of snow’ this could indicate that the love between Fanny and Troy has been lost. When Fanny is trying to get Troy’s attention she throws a snowball at his window but her throw misses the window and Hardy describes this as ‘the throw was the idea of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman… with such imbecility’. This shows Hardy’s views on women and how they are looked down on by the male figures. When Troy and Fanny are talking, Troy seems to not willing to talk to fanny and is trying to get away, this may be because he is ashamed to be with her and he thinks the other soldiers and they may think that she is just a prostitute. Troy tries to put Fanny of marrying him when they are talking because when she asks when they will be getting married he says ‘Oh, I see. Well – you have to get proper clothes’. Throughout this chapter you can tell that in the nineteenth century men are classed before women.
Another part of Far for the Madding Crowd that I find of interest is in Chapter 16, this is where Fanny turns up at the wrong church to marry Troy. Troy feels very humiliated by this in front of many people including the priest, congregation and friends of theirs. Troy directs his angry towards Fanny, this shows that women have no control over the men because in nineteenth century men were the more superior people in a relationship. If poor Fanny did not confuse the two churches, All Souls and All Saints, then she would have become Troy’s wife. If she did become Troy’s wife this would have firstly, stopped her from being shunned from society for being pregnant outside of marriage and secondly would have stopped Troy marrying Bathsheba. I think that Troy over reacted to Fanny’s mistake and he should of forgiven her; if he did forgive her could have married her the next day which is what she asked for. Also if he had forgiven Fanny then he would not have had to live to regret how he treated poor Fanny.
In Chapter 39, where Bathsheba and Troy are returning home from Casterbridge, they pass a small lonely figure on Turnpike Road. This person was Fanny Robin. Fanny had not been mention in the book for many chapters and no one had seen her for a period of time. When they saw poor Fanny they stopped and familiarized with each other. This caused problems between Bathsheba and Troy. Bathsheba then rides alone in the carriage while Troy walks. This could symbolize their futures. Troy has no consideration for women’s feelings; you can tell this by when he is wasting away Bathsheba’s and his money on gambling. After this he shows that he has realized that he has faulted and he offers to help Fanny when she tells him that she has no money. Troy then gives some money to Fanny and then soon after promises her that he will help her in the future. This is normal in the nineteenth century for women to be relying on the man for their money and upbringing.
Fanny’s journey to Casterbridge in Chapter 40 brings the reader to feel sorry for her and have sympathy for her. Hardy uses pathetic fallacy to show her suffering and the poor conditions she is in. ‘Now there was not a rustle, not a breeze, not the faintest clash of twigs to keep her company’. This shows that she is exhausted and lonely. When Fanny is alone during the late stages of her pregnancy, outside of marriage, she does not receive any help from humans, but receives it from a dog; the same dog that was chased away by the humans. This dog could represent Fanny because she may have felt like she had been chased away from society for being pregnant outside of marriage. Fanny does not want the help from anyone else but Troy. She took Troy’s word, which was that he would meet her in Casterbridge and he would help her. Another reason Fanny did not want the help from any other person than Troy was because she did not want anyone finding out about her being pregnant because she is not married to Troy; because of this Fanny decides to keep her identity hidden. Even though she has kept her identity hidden she has still been taken in by the ivy covered almshouse; they ask no questions and were willing to keep her secrets.
The next chapter which takes my interest is Chapter 41. This chapter is about when Bathsheba is with Troy at Loggerheads. Troy asks Bathsheba for money to gamble with, she asks him not too but he still does. This shows that Troy will do as he pleases; this would have been normal for nineteenth century men to rule over their wives. Fanny threatens Troy and Bathsheba’s marriage by Bathsheba discovering the lock of Fanny’s hair that Troy owns. Towards the end of this chapter, Joseph Poorgrass, a carter who works on Bathsheba’s farm speaks to Bathsheba. I think that he knew about Fanny’s pregnancy and how she died. Bathsheba then started asking him questions on how she did die. In the nineteenth century it was very common for a mother to die during childbirth because they did not have the technology and hygiene we have today. Bathsheba knew that many women died giving birth and so she was anxious to know is this is how poor Fanny died. Joseph Poorgrass is unaware that people do not know about Fanny’s pregnancy and so on the coffin Poorgrass writes ‘Child and F. Robin’ but soon after Oak runs out because he cares about Bathsheba and does not want her finding out that Fanny had left because she was pregnant and also Oak does not want her to feel upset about this.
In the nineteenth century if a woman decided she did not want to marry a man then she was be socially disapproved and some may even pity her. If the woman decided not to marry then she would not be able to have children because it was wrong to do so. The husband had the access to the woman’s body when he wanted it, she could not say no. this was agreed in the wedding ceremony in the vows and by law. If the woman did decide to stay single and not marry then it would be hard to get a job because usually only men would work while the women would stay at home and the man would be the one that pays for anything that is a necessity. Many people of the nineteenth century think that it is a sin to God to disobey the laws, and in this case the law was sex outside of marriage. In Chapter 43 you saw many different views on Fanny all because she was single and pregnant. Chapter 43 also reveals that Troy did have true feelings for Fanny once he finds out that she has died; when he sees her dead body he realizes that he did love her. Bathsheba is with him when he reveals his love for Fanny and she is very hurt by this. Troy tells Bathsheba that she means nothing to him because of his love for Fanny. Although Troy is very hurt because of his loss of Fanny he does not realize that he is upsetting Bathsheba and he accuses her of dumping him. He wanted to believe because if it wasn’t for Bathsheba’s flirting Troy would have married poor Fanny and she would not have been an outcast of society because she would have then been pregnant in a marriage.
Another main character in Far from the Madding Crowd would be Bathsheba Everdene. Bathsheba takes my interest in women’s experiences in the nineteenth century; this is because she is so different to all other women that lived in that period of time. Bathsheba owns and runs a farm; this was usually the man’s job because women were not meant to be as independent as some may say Bathsheba was. You can tell that Bathsheba comes across as a very independent woman from an early stage in the book. In Chapter 3, Gabriel Oak was watching how Bathsheba rode her horse and Hardy wrote ‘hardly expected of a woman she rode in the manner demanded by the saddle’ this means that she was not ridding the horse in a lady-like fashion, which was side saddling, but she rode the horse with one leg either side of the horse. Oak was very impressed by the way she rode the horse. While riding the horse it says that she ‘drops backwards flat upon the pony’s back, her head over its tail, her feet against its shoulders and her eyes to the sky’ Towards the end of the chapter Bathsheba yet again amazes Gabriel Oak by rescuing him from his smoke filled hut. He wakes up on her lap; usually it would be the other way round and the man would have saved the woman. ‘The young girl with remarkably pleasant lips and white teeth was beside him. More than this – astonishingly more his head was upon her lap, his face and neck were disagreeably wet, and her fingers were unbuttoning his collar.’ This sort of quote was unusual for the nineteenth century because in novels they would never discuss anything sexual as they thought it was a very wrong. After Bathsheba saves Oak she says that it was ‘foolish’ of him to leave his hut while there was a fire in it. No woman would usually say this to a man in the nineteenth century because the man was always in charge and so he would not have liked to be told what was right and what was wrong.